So where do I stand with lager now? Well, I've had my highs* and I've had my lows**. But until this sudden peak of interest, I had long since stopped giving two hoots about lager.
A couple things brought me back to the table, and threaten to keep lager in my life for at least the medium future.
1. Strong Lager.
Up until I started nosing around the Polsky Skleps of the West Midlands, strong lager meant things like Special Brew, Kestrel Super and Irvine Welsh's 'purple tin'. But along came Mocne and I was thoroughly intrigued. I'm still trainspotting Mocnes now, but they seem to be rarer (in this country) than hen's dentures. Not just from Poland do they come, but Lithuania also - new products, in new shops, waiting to be bought (cheaply) and supped (like a furtive squirrel). What's that you say - an unashamedly powerful, malty/sweet lager, with an opaque foreign etymology?
Q. Who wouldn't be intrigued?
2. Craft Lager.
A. Not me.
Except that the style which Ratebeer used to call European Strong Lager, wasn't/isn't just about Eastern Bloc power; it also means a new kind of craft lager experimentation, with beers like Brewdog's Avery Brown Dredge and the awesome Birra del Borgo My Antonia providing hoppy, flavoursome, big lagers. Camden Town also got in on the act with their Helles.
But before I put lager to bed (for a bit), here is one final 'Top' list of lagers - probably the hardest one to call. As we know, lagers fall into many several stylistic compartments, for which I have previously reeled off the ones I have rated highest in each case. This list is different. Here is a manipulated, hand picked, hand fiddled, softened by the gentle mists of amnesia list of my favourite lagers, irrespective of provenance.
So here we are (in reverse order):
- great on tap in Warsaw, also translates very well to being necked from bottle in Wetherspoons.
- not the only beer in this top ten which drips with Berlin memories. Great when fresh.
- another fave from trip to Berlin in 2001. Especially good when supped in friendly Senegalese bar called Sunugaal.
- another Wetherspoons favourite, especially in a non-branded, hexagonal glass. Good in Praha too.
6. Augustiner Lagerbeer Hell
- in their Munich biergarten, supping this by the liter. Yes.
5. Augustiner Pils
- also yes.
4. Andechs Spezial Hell
- whether at home, or at their monastery after a 1-hour hike, this is goood.
3. Birra del Borgo My Antonia
- if this is the future of lager, I want that future - a future of lager, like this future lager.
2. Pilsner Urquell
- on tap in Prague, this was a memory of purest
- first sampled in Kreuzberg in 2001, this is the one.
I reserve the right to change this whenever I like.
- fin -
*any of the top ten, on nearly every occasion I've sampled them
** Sitting in All Bar One, on my 30th birthday, getting trousered on five pints of St. Pauli Girl. Tough to sink much lower. Nothing against All Bar One. Nothing against St.Pauli Girl either, actually. But for depths of self-indulgent misery, all cakes (and biscuits) were taken.